GRIERSON, Mary Anderson

1912 - 2012

Mary Grierson

Mary Anderson Grierson, was born at Bodfaen, Craig Y Don Road, Up Bangor, Caernarvonshire, North Wales on 27 September 1912, youngest of the three children of George Rae Grierson (17 October 1872-1935), laundry proprietor, and his wife Anna née Shortridge (1876-1945), who were both born at Dumfries, Scotland and in 1911 were living at Bangor, with their two younger children, Ethel Shortbridge 8, born Mombasa and Colin McKay 4, born Bangor. Her mother painted in oils and encouraged daughter Mary from a young age but Mary came to prefer the medium of watercolour, insisting that she hated the smell of oils. Educated at Bangor County School for Girls she enjoyed art and botany, but had no interest in going to university and as an eighteen year old her skills with the brush and pencil earned her a coveted Diploma of the Royal Drawing Society. She went to Germany, where she taught English, then came home to study domestic science at Battersea Polytechnic. In the 1930s Mary worked briefly as a confectioner in Llandudno and managed a restaurant in Scotland. On the outbreak of Second Word War, Mary Grierson joined the WAAF, serving with the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Medmenham, near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, analysing and interpreting aerial photographs, work which no doubt enhanced her powers of observation. After demobilisation she joined Hunting Aerosurveys, a company making maps from aerial photographs, who sent her on a pen-and-ink drawing course at the Field Studies Centre at Flatford Mill, Suffolk, a location celebrated in the work of John Constable. She found the experience so fulfilling that she returned there to study under the painter and botanical illustrator John Nash [q.v.], younger brother of the great war artist Paul Nash (1889-1946). A botanical artist of repute, Mary Grierson received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Veitch Memorial Medal in 1984, and its Victoria Medal of Honour in 1997. Her work is held at museums around the world, but the finest collection resides at Kew, which has more than 1,000 of her watercolours and pen and ink drawings. She died 30 January 2012, aged 99, she was unmarried.

Works by This Artist